Saturday, 17 March 2012

When I was younger, I harboured the idea of being an illustration artist. That materialised somewhat into a service I provided before I entered NS in 2005, where I'd draw caricatures for clients. The novelty was that I'd use MS Paint to a large degree to do these drawings, for a fee.

The idea proved to be far too impractical, because MS Paint is obviously one of the slowest design tools one can use (although I like it because it is one of the easiest and most powerful design programmes). I didn't want to continue doing it. But after a handful of completed assignments, word got around about my service and til this day I still have friends asking for a drawing, and I'm still complying and still churning out those pictures. It's hard to turn many of these requests down because there's always a heartfelt reason behind why they want it done - as an anniversary gift, to salvage a relationship, to bid their closest friends goodbye - I've often pulled through these time-consuming works because I somehow feel the anticipation they have for that moment they show it to whoever they've wanted to include in the picture. It's too much of a letdown to refuse that. And I don't think I've ever failed to meet a deadline.

So, on Monday, a friend of a friend asked for a drawing. She needed me to draw her and her 7 colleagues, which she will then give to them as a parting gift as she's leaving Singapore for Africa. It's the craziest deadline I've ever been presented with, but I took it up. After 3 insane days, I delivered the drawing to her 5 minutes before 6pm, which was the time she absolutely needed it by.

I usually do not mind taking my time to draw and design, even if it takes waaaay too long by most other peoples' standards, because I do enjoy drawing. After this episode though I will think harder about taking up such time-tight assignments.

I don't think I did a great job and in fact I couldn't include some of the effects that, I think, make my drawings unique. Those effects take very long to accomplish. While I'm not proud of this (most artists will know how knowingly delivering subpar work feels), I knew that having the drawing was more important than the quality itself to her.

Most of the people I draw now are people I do not know. The social distance between me and the client is often something like a friend of a friend of a friend. But drawing faces and caricaturing them makes me intimately familiar with each person's face. If I see them on the street, I will recognise them, and they have no idea what I know. It's a strange feeling.

Also, in the case of my work, my drawings are nicer when they do not reflect accuracy. In the end it comes down to imagining what each person is remembered for, and then emphasising that.

Now that this is done, I can finally take a break.

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